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Percy Marshall Sr. – 103 years

Golf is an integral part of my life. Not just a mild preoccupation or a hobby, rather a calling that pulses deep within my veins. Golf is a lot of things for me not just a score. The game is my living link to my past; those that have gone before me who shared this obsession, which taught me gratitude for golf. It’s the air early in the morning, new dew on the closely mown grass, the sound of a good pass made club compressing a ball neatly against the turf, a connection between mind and soul exhilaratingly pure. Golf is the unbreakable link, the bond between father and son, grandfather and grandson. When I’m on the course and flowing with the game, I know that they are there with me, in spirit and indelible memory.

Percy Marshall Sr.

Percy and the KidsPercy Marshall Sr, is my great grandfather and one of the great men I’ve been lucky to know in my time on this earth. He is 103 and still ever the golfer in spirit. His love for the game transcends a selfish affection. Never would he hoard greedily the beauty of golf. This man was moved to share the game with those that otherwise would never have had the opportunity to be exposed to its majesty. The good lord gave us this game to share and experience happiness, fellowship, and an undeniable kinship regardless of race or economic status. He made it his mission in the great city of Cincinnati, Ohio. His aim was the youth as he loves to see the children playing golf. For that matter, he would never hesitate to chat up the merits to anyone regardless of age, race, or gender. Play the game! It’s the greatest game ever invented. He championed an ambitious initiative to get clubs in the hands of the inner city youth. The only donation he was looking for were those old clubs nobody was using. It’s estimated he was responsible for collecting over 2000 sets of clubs. Talk about success.

Mr. Marshall, who was inducted into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame based in Winston-Salem, N.C., started from very humble beginnings. The legend of his homemade golf club he fashioned from an old steel washtub still astonishes me to this day. His fever for the game glowed hot after a brief exposure caddying for an English cotton salesmen. It was 1928, the days of legal racial equality were still decades away. A man with a beautiful swing and an accepting heart for a boy of color ignited a passion that has been passed on at least 4 generations. Think about that for a second, let it soak in. The human condition was radically altered by an act of benevolence in a time when that was unheard of, mind bogglingly unexpected. The ripple effect spanning at least 4 generations directly, yet exponentially the reach is beyond measure. The gift of golf was given to so many, by one man, directly influenced by the humanity of another. I can’t begin to fathom that kind of impact.

On Course

Riding in the cartPersonally, I’m a direct benefactor of his impact. After all, Mr. Marshall taught my grandfather Solomon, who in turn taught me, his grandson. Grateful is often an overused word, but true to the definition I am eternally grateful for the times I’ve been blessed to spend with Percy on the golf course. When I was just starting my golf journey with some great tutelage from Solomon, my great granddaddy happened to be coming through Atlanta. He wanted to ride with me for 9 holes, heard I’d taken up the game….actually, I think he insisted, not that I needed much coercing. I was nervous because he has an eagle eye for the swing. He loves a “good move” into the ball and I was hopeful that my rather longwinded whirlwind pass would meet his approval. Thankfully it did, he just needed me to make sure I set my hands right “every time,” and stop trying to hit the ball so hard. The second time we played was in Cincinnati at his beloved home course of Avon Fields. It’s a muni at its core and Mr. Marshall was the patriarch for those local players for many years. Everyone gave him a hello as he made his way slowly through the clubhouse. He was 95 then. Didn’t play much, but loved to come and watch. This day was exceptionally special as my 7 year old son was playing with us. When we made it to the tee box, I asked Mr. Marshall if he was playing from the forward tees….I mean he was 95 at the time so it seemed to me a reasonable assumption. I’ll never forget the fire in his eyes as he assessed me proper, gave me a little look up and down and proclaimed with a real sense of indignation…..”Those are the ladies tees….and I ain’t no lady.” I pray to God I still have that kind of vigor if I make it that far. We had one of those days that I and my son will always remember. Mr. Marshall was smitten with the sweet natural move of a baseball playing 7 year old. Making a rather bold and prophetic statement to me without a shred of doubt…”that boy is going to be a golfer; he could be a great golfer.” Still remember trying to temper his assessment with, “maybe, but he’s a baseball player granddaddy, that’s all he wants to do.”

The last time we were out was a couple of years ago. Percy hadn’t been out to a golf course in some time so we made a trip up as a family to Cincinnati. We took him out to another local course in the fall as Avon Fields was closed for an event. Health at 100+ is tenuous, so I tried to set the expectations low for my son who was beyond excited to be on the course with great great grandaddy again. Sounds weird just writing that…..how lucky we are. I made the arrangements, got him a cart and he rode nine holes with his caretaker with a smile miles wide. Father time has taking a toll on him physically, but the soul knows no age. The weather was perfect, the day legendary. He was watching, living the shots he used to hit through his 14 year old great great grandson. We live in a completely different world from the one he grew up in. Times have changed as they say; staggering progress yet so many things stay the same. The one chord tying a century to the next is a mutual love for the game. Imagine that with any other sport? Just imagine the generational ties taut with living life, not just words or fragile memory, but through action.

Happy Birthday

I felt the need to write these words today as Percy is 103. Happy Birthday, great granddaddy. I’m proud of him and thankful for him; a man amongst men whose influence and sphere radiate with a still powerfully provocative force. Sure, he might not have been the president or some CEO of such an such, or wealthy by the standard set by society. But, you see, that’s the point. His passion for golf filled him with the intangible that those he touched grab hold of and are filled with today. A passion set in motion, given to others that will live long beyond his years. Golf. That itch on a Saturday morning, to go hit it, go find it, go hit it again; a soul feeding endeavor that only demands your respect. I’ll leave this post with a few words of wisdom from Percy Marshall Sr:

“Go to bed early”
-“Stay away from alcohol”
-“Boy, you’ve got to get it there to have a chance”

3 Golf Hacks for Playing More Golf

Golf is a time consuming endeavor that can get very expensive. All things relative, I believe it’s worth the investment. Where else can you get the combination of fresh air, a little exercise, and fellowship wrapped in a big bow called friendly competition? Sadly, from a man’s perspective, many of us will fail miserably at partaking of this forbidden fruit. Work? That’s not a good excuse. Money? It can hinder certainly, but where there is a will there is a way. No one mandated you had to play $70 tracks every week…there are numerous ways to find bargains and specials. Can’t find anyone to play with? Yes, this is a real phenomena. If you’re like me, you played a lot before marriage, probably had a regular weekly foursome. One by one, picked off in our prime, married. Then come the children, first Scott, then Bill, then you find yourself sitting in front of the television watching golf, changing diapers during commercials. Sigh…..

It’s all okay, part of the realities of life I guess. The only guys I know that rebelled and broke through, ended up divorced with bitter ex-spouses. I told my wife straight up before we got married….”hi, my name is Stephen and I’m a golfer”. Also told her, “there aren’t 12 steps that I know of that can render a cure, you are willfully signing for damaged goods”, yet she still walked down the aisle. There are ways to keep it going even when the little ones come along and life gets real. Just always remember you need golf and golf needs you. Now this guide isn’t for the fickle golfer. If you even think you could be called a fickle golfer, go ahead, stop reading now….it’s okay, 4caddy wasn’t meant for you, I truly wish you well. If you are one of the afflicted, the kind of person that can’t wait to hit balls after work, almost as if the school bell is ringing for recess….you can hardly get out of your desk fast enough. The guy helpless to the need to shadow swing in an empty elevator because it’s mirrored. In church while praying, you might on occasion slip into that interlocking grip when the preacher skillfully segues to the Lord’s prayer. I catch myself doing that, it’s kind of sad, but it’s completely involuntary. Looking outside on a nice day, you can hear the sound, that thump of the turf, the smell of the grass as the divot cut shallow launching that pearl high into the heavens. Wow, that even got to me writing that passage. Another 4 hours till the bell rings.

So what are the 3 hacks to golf life sublime and a happy home? I’ll break them down coming from a man of experience…..my personal experience. I can also share my insight on stories relayed to me anecdotally. What I can’t do is guarantee a positive outcome if used in whole or in part. Remember the “free” part of this blog and so you can get a refund…but well, I think you get the gist.

The Ferris Bueller

If you are still in the dating stage, it’s important that you set the expectations appropriately. Capitulation killed the golfer and his ability to get out and play, well…golf. For example, let’s say the scenario below is a true account through actor portrayal:

Scott gets a text from Bill….”got a time for 8am Saturday, Zach and Charlie are in, you down? Should be fun” Scott replies- “yep count me in…see you then”. Scott knows nothing is planned for Saturday, but he’s going to let Janet know he’s playing golf with the boys. He’ll drop that golden nugget of a schedule change tonight after dinner. “Janet, got a text from Bill, playing golf with the boys at 8 on Saturday. You good?”

Everything is great, until Janet who holds an undefined resentment towards golf, shifts uncomfortably into a pout. This is so critical, apply ample emphasis and listen to the words coming out of my Mac. Emphatically, with Pit Bull tenaciousness, do not fall to this shrewd tactic employed by the cunning temptress. No disrespect intended. Janet is presumably a fine lass and I certainly don’t intend any disparaging insinuations. It’s just their nature to cajole the man out of you, locking it away in some perverse jar, a trophy of sorts. Scott’s fatal error?He asked permission to play golf. Hey man…don’t do that. It’s always better, 9 times out 10 and twice on Sundays to ask for forgiveness. Scott’s only chance at redemption is to stand his ground. He mustn’t acknowledge the pout or the change in disposition. The pro move is to jump into action. Take out the trash, load the dishwasher, mow the lawn…do what any politician would adeptly do, shift the focus to the rabbit coming out of the hat. Not the fact you will be paying more in taxes for the trick. I believe Ferris Bueller ended up a politician. That’s my own belief, I don’t need Hollywood to sully things with an ill advised sequel.

Married with Children

One of the all time great politically incorrect television sit-coms was Married with Children. Poor Peg married to miserable Al Bundy. If you are married with children, playing golf is all the more important to your overall mental disposition. I don’t suggest you play golf at the expense of family time. Family is too important and kids grow up way too fast. This trick is harder to pull off but it can be done. Your frequency of play will naturally diminish. Quality over quantity is the golden rule in your particular case. What you may have to do is sacrifice some other less important hobbies that tend to consume a bunch of your time. Watching sports is fun, but unless it’s a huge event, I’ve made the choice to forgo in order to be “present” for important family matters. Think, would you rather be doing or would you rather be watching. Over time I’ve learned that there will always be another big game. If you get out twice a month, make those outings about playing golf with the boys and not all the extracurricular things. You know, that 19th hole, isn’t a must every time. Especially if it turns into many drinks and a lost Saturday. Get on with it, settle up and high tail it home. That’s a real hack to playing more golf, as they say a “tour” move.

The Force is with you

From this man’s perspective, it’s easy to look upon your wife as a Sith lord bent on your conversion to the ways of the Pinterest. Have you ever heard this one…”Hey honey, I was wondering, I think it would be cool to paint the bathroom cabinets a warm Avocado as an accent to the tile floor. What do you think?” Make sure you keep keen control of your “inside voice” during this exchange. Sure, your first inclination is to lament what an atrocious idea that is and how you would rather get a lobotomy or watch the WNBA. Of course you cave…”Hmmm, Avocado would be different, not the worst idea, maybe that would work, you want to go get some paint samples?” You sound interested, but you aren’t because your intonation is ripe with “Man, shoot me dead, this sucks, I don’t want to, please don’t make me do it”. A gross generalization no doubt, my sincerest apologies to no one. But if it isn’t Pinterest it’s some other unnecessary evil you should try your best to avoid….or should you? When it comes down to it, you have to give a little to get a little, or in this matter a lot for a little. Along with forgoing some of your less important pursuits, maybe ingratiate yourself a bit with the keeper of the golf hall passes. Try this on for size, “Say, you think we can get a couple of samples on our way back from grocery shopping?” That’s a power play there sir….a tried and true Force move, Skywalker approved. Lend me some creative license on this one, at least enough to hang myself with is all I’m asking. Follow this logic. Wife or girlfriend wants you to engage in something they feel is important and would love to share with you. It’s the art of negotiation, the point at which you are giving to them what they need from you. It’s a need I assure you, not some exercise in perversion bent on tormenting your soul. No, I know from a wealth of experience if it’s something she would like to share with you, it’s important to her. If you acknowledge the significance with an earnest heart…..man, that is the golf hack of all hacks. Be consistent in your efforts and etching out links time will be a whole lot easier.

Trilogy

There, the ground rules for three solid life hacks for getting to play more golf. There are many more tools in the toolbox, but these three are my “go to” for getting out more consistently. Of these three, the Ferris Bueller is the most difficult to implement. You must be committed to the shot as it were and take dead aim. If you are indecisive or not firm in your conviction, in all likelihood you will find yourself often stymied when you really shouldn’t be. Akin to finding a wayward drive snookered behind an oak tree….Always remember, a good wife can sense fear. You give off the same pheromone lioness can smell on the Serengeti when they happen on a herd of Caribou. Don’t be dinner, but buying dinner can’t hurt. They know, they always know. This play works best pre-marriage, but can be adopted later with an increased probability at some unforeseen collateral damage, still worth the price of admission. Married with Children is a solid combination play. It pairs nicely with a dry white wine…no that’s for another blog post about wine, cheese and golf. Be Cal Ripken like when it comes to consistency and you will accumulate some real golf cache when you need it. That dude just kept showing up and they kept putting him in the lineup. Why not you?

Last but not least amongst the 3 is the Force. You hate grocery shopping….I know it, I can sense the disturbance in the Force just bringing it up. My wife hates grocery shopping too! Actually don’t know anyone offhand who enjoys going to the market for food. So that olive branch of assistance is worth more than gold. She knows I’m playing golf because of the Ferris, but she’s almost happy I’m gone if she’s not stuck picking out veggies off a list while I’m turning to 10. Well played, well played.

Hope you found these little nuggets enjoyable. If I wasn’t here to amuse you, you’d go somewhere else and that’s cool too. Drop me a line with a well timed comment below. Keep hitting them straight.

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